Malacañang defends decision to discontinue hazard pay to gov't workers, says coronavirus threat now 'manageable'

By Genalyn Kabiling 

Malacañang has defended its decision to discontinue the grant of COVID-19 hazard pay to government workers who physically report for work during the general community quarantine (GCQ) by saying that the coronavirus threat has become "manageable."

Presidential spokesman Harry Roque asked state workers for understanding especially since the government need funds for efforts to contain the spread of the disease.

Presidential spokesperson Harry Roque speaks during a press briefing at the New Executive Building in Malacanang, Friday. (CAMILLE ANTE / MANILA BULLETIN) Presidential spokesperson Harry Roque Jr.(CAMILLE ANTE / MANILA BULLETIN FILE PHOTO)

"Yung banta bagamat naririyan pa, it has become manageable dahil humaba ang doubling rate ng sakit at saka na-increase ang capacity natin to provide critical care. Hindi na po katindi ang banta pero kinakailangan na mag-ingat pa rin (Although the threat is still there, it has become manageable because the case doubling rate has dropped and our capacity to provide critical care has increased. The threat is not as severe but we must continue to take precautions)," Roque said during a televised press briefing about the decision to stop the hazard pay for certain state workers.

Asked if there was no chance to resume COVID-19 hazard pay for some government workers, Roque said: "Talagang 'yan naka budget lahat yan. Ang lahat ng budget nakalaan sa COVID-19 so kaunting pasensya sa ating government workers (The funds are all budgeted. The budget is allocated for COVID-19 so we appeal for the understanding of our government workers)," he added.

Last March, President Duterte issued Administrative Order No. 26 authorizing the grant of COVID-19 hazard pay to government personnel who physically report for work during the enhanced community quarantine. The personnel working in national government agencies, state universities, and colleges and government corporations were entitled to hazard pay not exceeding P500.

The AO stated that public health workers, social workers, science and technology personnel, military and uniformed personnel, and other workers already receiving hazard allowance or similar benefits shall continue to be entitled to such benefits or the COVID-19 hazard pay, whichever is higher.

Last Friday, Civil Service Commission commissioner Aileen Lizada announced that state workers who physically report for work during GCQ are no longer entitled to hazard pay.

Public health workers, policemen and soldiers, and others mandated to receive hazard pay under the law, however, will still receive such benefit, according to the CSC official.

"Hazard pay is given to all those mandated to receive hazard pay under the law, ito po iyong public health workers and iyong PNP, AFP mayroon po but those who did skeleton workforce po ever since March 16, they are entitled to hazard pay, pero kapag nag-GCQ na po tayo, wala na pong hazard pay," she said during the Laging Handa public briefing last Friday.

"Hazard pay is only given during ECQ outside of those entitled to hazard pay," she added.

Metro Manila and nine other areas have been placed under the less stringent general community quarantine starting June 1. Lockdown measures are further relaxed in the rest of the country, which are now under modified GCQ.

In GCQ areas, Roque said government work may resume at full operational capacity or under alternative work arrangements.

In MGCQ areas, government offices may be allowed to resume physical reporting for work at full capacity, while alternative work arrangements are encouraged for those over 59 years old.